St. Stephen’s martyrdom, which we celebrate today, includes a valuable gem in discussing prayer with the LDS, better known as the Mormons. Mormons refuse to pray to Jesus, because they don’t see prayer to Him in the New Testament:
So, it is abundantly clear in Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount that we are instructed, indeed commanded (contrary to CRI’s claim), to pray to the Father. Nowhere in the New Testament are we instructed to pray to Jesus. Nor, am I aware of any passage of scripture in the New Testament that records any person approaching Jesus Christ in prayer as opposed to the Father.Yes, it is correct to say that Israel prayed to Jehovah, who was the same person as Jesus. But should we do all that the Israelites did? Should we perform all that the Jews did for Jehovah? Should we continue animal sacrifice? Should we continue in the practice of circumcision? No, of course not. The Law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus. So, just as many of the practices under the Law of Moses should not be practiced today, due to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles and prophets, nor should we use the Old Testament as our guide at the expense of Jesus Christ’s words and commands to pray to the Father.There is no other command, in regard to whom we should pray, but that of Jesus to pray to the Father. Latter-day Saints have been taught in kind.
So while both Catholics and LDS agree on the importance of praying to the Father, the LDS claim that this should be done to the exclusion of the Son. Although they acknowledge that prayer to Jesus occurred in the Old Testament, Mormons refuse to do it today because they don’t see it in the New Testament. This is where St. Stephen’s martyrdom comes in.
|Johann von Schraudolph, Stoning of Stephen (1850)|
In St. Luke’s account of the Passion, Jesus begins and ends His Crucifixion with prayers to the Father. He begins by praying for the forgiveness of His killers (Luke 23:33-34a):
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
He ends by commending His Spirit to the Father (Luke 23:44-46):
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Compare this with Luke’s account of St. Stephen’s martyrdom, from Acts 7:55-60,
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him.
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
So he prays to Jesus in exactly the same way that Jesus prays to the Father. In fact, Luke even refers to it as prayer. It’s true that Jesus calls us to pray to the Father, but nowhere does He negate the Old Testament practice of praying to Himself, and the New Testament shows from the earliest days, that prayers to the Son continued in Christianity. Scripturally, this is an open-and-shut case.
Of course, in the context of Mormonism, all of this touches on much bigger issues, like the Trinity, and the fact that we’re called to worship Jesus Christ (which LDS also deny).